Tuesday, September 23, 2014

About "The Musketeer Murder"

Being murdered isn't very much fun, if you're the one who get's shot, that is.  Naturally, the person who did it feels a certain amount of relief afterwards, but there's still that tenseness that he may be caught, and that might just give him away.

I'm working on a short story right now that uses this concept, the concept of the murderer giving himself away directly after the committing of the crime.  The only problem is that the people around him have to pick up on his slip-ups.

One twist that I'm putting in (you'll know this almost from the beginning, so I'm not giving out any spoilers) is that all the characters, with the exception of the victim, are involved in the murder more or less.  They've all made plans to kill the victim at one point, or at least have someone else kill the victim.

This is very much an experimental story.  It's also set in modern times, so don't let the title fool you.  I allude to the novel by Dumas quite a bit in the story, and I've taken an important theme from The Three Musketeers--"One for All, and All for One"--as a theme for my story.

So, maybe you're wondering why I'm making such a big deal about this right now.  ("Aren't you supposed to be in college?")  Actually, it's just something that I've been thinking about a good deal lately.  You probably know, if you've been around here for very long, that I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan.  I love murder mysteries of all types, and I've really begun branching out with my mystery reading.  It's such an interesting genre, and I love the reader interaction in the story that doesn't always happen in other genres.  I suppose it's only inevitable, then, that I should dedicate a good chunk of my writing time to churning out murder mysteries.

Which leads me to another problem.  There are only six characters in my story, including the victim, and none of them, including the victim, are good.  It's quite an interesting experience, actually, writing a story with only villains.  For instance, what does one do with the ending.  They can't win, but then, does no one win?

I'm finding myself influenced by Crime and Punishment here.  That's an amazing book, by the way, and if you've never read it you really should.

My other big problem is motive.  Do you realize how horrible a person you would have to be to have five whole people actively trying to kill you?  Yes, hers was not an easy life.

By her, I mean Connie, the victim, of course.  Connie's a nasty little piece of work, involved in blackmail and threats and possibly theft.  Not that any of the others are better, either.

There's Ren, also called "Dad" by the others because he's serious and bookish.  We also have Ollie, the oldest of the group, who's in his late twenties but has the tendency to brood in a Hamlet-esque manner.  Char is a wild young woman who doesn't lead quite as ugly of a life as she tries to make everyone believe she does.  Isaac is a body-builder type of guy, Ren's best friend and smart despite the fact that he always seems to look as though someone just punched him upside the head.  Annie, the last of our gruesome band, is an unnatural redhead who acts like a blonde but has the presence of mind to ask others to do her dirty work for her.

With all the thought I've had to put into this story so far, I'm still not certain of what I'll do with it when I'm finished.  One doesn't exactly publish a single short story.  Still, I'm enjoying the writing of it!

Thanks for reading, and God bless,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Had No Right to be Born, for You Make No Use of Life.

Thank you for that apt reminder, Charlotte Brönte.  Charlotte is on my top list of authors right now, because of Shirley.  Why do we never hear about that book?  It's so much funnier than Jane Eyre, not to mention the story is deeper and WAY more interesting.  It smacks of an earlier version of North and South because we have a harsh mill owner and disgruntled workers, although the story contains a good deal more than that.  You need to read it.

Ahem.  I shall now get down to the nitty-gritty.

This is a post in which I shall preach to myself.

I hate editing.  Big surprise, right?  Why can't I just write a paper and have it turn out perfectly right away?  Instead, I sit staring into nothingness and growing more and more frustrated with myself because I can't think of how I should make my manuscript better.  Then I end up with an explosion and go off to read some Agatha Christie because murder always makes me feel better after editing, or trying to edit.

Rage gifs.  When words fail. I have longed to do this to my computer lol

Naturally I know that all of you love EDITING!  Oh, how fun!  Oh, how many exclamation marks I'm using in this paragraph!

In reality, some people like editing even more than the initial writing process.  Some people also like physics and chemistry, but we try not to talk to them too much.  And to all my writing brothers and sisters who think that the epitome of writing happiness is sitting down to tear up a beloved manuscript, TELL ME YOUR SECRET.

I'm in a short story writing class right now, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.  I am also learning all that editing implies.  This class is one of the higher-level CW classes at my university, and I've only taken basic CW so far.  (I'm not a CW major, so these classes actually count as electives for me, and I don't have to take them in order.  I am so powerful.)  I feel majorly underprepaired even though I'm enjoying the class so much.  For instance, every time my professor starts going on about publishers and such I start feeling like Calvin.

Disclaimer: I write all my own assignments.  It is, however, astonishing how often I can relate to Calvin in other areas.  Do I need mental help?

Editing for a class is so much more than editing for yourself.  I'm going to hand in my brain-child to a cold-hearted professor who will scribble all over it and make comments that make me feel like a toddler who randomly scratched out gibberish all over a page and called it writing.  Hence, I must edit away all possibility of this ever happening.  The stress is very real.

When I actually hunker down to editing, though, I can hardly bear to change what I've written.  I know it's bad, but it's mine.  I sit before my computer, impatiently waiting for the editing muse to come along and give me some ideas.

Greatest GIF compiliation on writing EVER. || The Publishing Process in GIF Form | Nathan Bransford, Author

I'm pretty sure that editing doesn't have a muse.  That's something you have to do all by yourself.  I edited my first manuscript for SSW class last week, and it was some of the hardest editing I've ever done.  Know what?  The assignment was under 200 words.  I had 257.  When you have to tell a story, however simple, in 200 or fewer words, you have a problem.  Each word counts, and has to mean a whole lot.  My 257 words meant a lot; I had already stripped the story, or anecdote, down to bare bones.  What more could I do?

That's when I found out that editing means pushing yourself to the limit, ruthlessly cutting what you thought was the good stuff.  It wasn't.  You can make it better.  Rather, I can make it better.  (I'm preaching to myself.  You guys already know all this stuff.)

Honestly, I've read about editing before, and I've found it to be dull reading.  Is it because of the way I've approached editing before?  I'm not merely butchering my darling, I'm creating a rigid monster.  That's how I've always looked at it, but I think I've been taking the wrong approach.  What I discovered after I was forced to edit down those words is that the limitations made me do it.  What I had when I was finished editing was so much better than the rough draft.  It wasn't a rigid monster, it was a good paper.

My professor, one of the harder graders in the department, so I've been told, told me that I had a good story when he gave it back to me today.  Editing works, guys.  

Honestly, though, I found out something important from all that editing.

I've got to have restrictions and rules.  In this case I had a deadline and a tiny word count.  The rules were pretty rigid, and it made my writing much better than it would normally be.

How I love Calvin and Hobbs! Sums up the response from the High School students I teach!

That's so hard to replicate in real life when you're editing a novel.  You don't necessarily have a deadline or a minimal word count. You don't have a professor breathing down your neck (figuratively, of course) as you frantically cut out whole paragraphs and reconsider word choice.  The self-control needed is fantastic.

Oh, and I'm not giving you any specific suggestions for editing, other than saying that restricting yourself is important.  Why?  If you've been here for any length of time, you know that my pet peeve is lists that tell you exactly how to write your story.  I am very much a theorist when it comes to writing, because I believe that each writer must discover how best he works.

All I'm saying is that we (that is, I) need to be strict, strict, strict when it comes to tearing up a ms.  I've decided to set personal deadlines for myself because otherwise I'll never get anything done.

But isn't that what everyone's already been telling us all along.  I guess we all need to have our own epiphany over the exact same thing.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,


Friday, September 5, 2014

Beautiful People (Villain Edition) - Heliopolite Tajisscra

Hi, everyone!  I'm here to link up with The Notebook Sisters for the September edition of Beautiful People.  This month it's villains!  Yay!  And, of course, I have to do my favorite villain (who is also recurring), Heliopolite Tajisscra, or just Tajisscra.  He's got his reasons, but he's still black-hearted.  You'll find him in Alicia, Lonish the Swordmaster, and various short stories set in the world of Rindavae.  I also have plans for some of his family members to show up in other novels.

1. What is their motive?

Well, Tajisscra and his people, the Estackam, have a huge chip on their shoulders because they feel that they are not as favored as the Cheol Ruvin, the people chosen to keep the records of Rindavae by the Good Master, the Maker of Rindavae.  They feel that the choice was unfair, and so they've basically been feuding with the Cheol Ruvin ever since.  Tajisscra simply has greater drive than the others of his people.  He wants respect from all of Rindavae, but not necessarily for the Estackam.  He wants to be respected personally.  Also, he sees Mortals as puny invaders who have no sense of the reality of things.  When he meets intelligent and brave Mortals such as Lonish and Alicia, he tries to use them for his own ends.

2. What do they want, and what are they prepared to do to get it?

Tajisscra wants power and respect.  He's willing to do anything (short of hurting his sister) to achieve those goals.

3.  How do they deal with conflict?

Tajisscra is an Estackam.  He's usually in a position to blast anyone who opposes him with his Wand.  Unfortunately, when he runs into real conflict he tends to talk his way out of things rather than staying and fighting.  He can shed real blood if it comes down to that, though.

4.  Describe their current place of residence.

Well, Estackam tend to congregate near rivers, so I like to think that Tajisscra, when he's not terrorizing Alicia and trying to recruit Lonish, lives in a cheerful little cottage by the riverside, enjoying his garden and fishing as he plots up evil schemes whereby he will gain control of Mount Lucor and make all of Rindavae bend to his will.

5.  If they were writing their story, how would it end?

Tajisscra has a thing about tenacity.  While I have chronicled some of his greatest escapades into ponderous volumes, he would say that his story is not yet over, that he will rise again, and all that.  I think if he searched deep down he would realize that a true happy ending would be living with his sister in a cottage by the river, not trying to make all of Rindavae respect and love him or get vengeance on the Cheol Ruvin.  Still, Elori Tajisscra is just as twisted as her brother, and I think both of them would agree that the only happy ending lies in taking Mount Lucor.

6.  What habits, speech patterns, etc. are unique to them.

Oh, this one's actually easy because I describe the way Tajisscra talks in Alicia.  He has a strong, outwardly calm and even kind voice, but there are undertones of emptiness and darkness underneath.  You can never really pinpoint his tone because he hides behind all the vocal tones (rather than making his voice flat to hide his purpose).  As for habits, he has the extremely bad habit of trying to make a hybrid "superwarrior" in order to take over the world.  On a smaller scale, he fiddles with the carvings on his staff when he grows bored.

7.  How do they show love?  What do they like to do for/with the people they love?

Tajisscra does not truly love anyone, although he might be able to love Elori, his sister, sometime in the future if he gets his act together.  He believes that the language of love is shown through physical contact, such as a hug or kiss, but he's definitely not a touchy-feely person.  When he tries to win over his niece, the half-Mortal, half-Estackam Marie the Clever, he has a difficult time because he really does not know how to show affection but tries to do it anyway.  He claims that he would do anything for Elori, but sometimes I think that's just a lot of hot air.

8.  Do they have any pets?

Nope.  Tajisscra is a loner.

9.  Where would they go to relax/think?

Tajisscra can relax anywhere where there is no other living creature.  He prefers riversides, though, because the sound of the running water is very calming on the nerves.

10.  What is their weapon of choice?

Tajisscra wants to use a sword.  As an Estackam, he has the power of a Wand, but he also has a boyish fascination with sharp blades.  He thinks that swinging them around and actually feeling the sword slice into the person you're slaying must be high fun.  Unfortunately, you lose all that with a Wand.  It's a dream, you know.  Maybe someday he'll find a sword of his own.

Thanks for reading, and God bless,